Cheap DIY LEGO Microscope Brings Science To Underprivileged Students

Inexpensive atomic imaging microscopes built from plastic toy blocks and Arduino computers.

In collaboration with students from both Oxford University, Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Singapore University of Technology and Design, PhD student Alice Pyne is looking to build an inexpensive scientific imaging device for elementary school use, which will finally bring imaging devices to underprivileged students. Pyne wants children to have access to impactful information, such as biological samples and crystalized virus structures.

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The team at University College London was able to build an open-source atomic force microscope (AFM) that uses 3D-printed parts, Arduino computers, and LEGO pieces, while keeping the project under £300. As described by Pynes, AFM microscopes are like miniature record players with a laser light. The laser beam reflects any changes on the sample’s surface, which enables the device to record nanoscale structures.

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Pynes’ project is still currently in the developmental stages; she is optimistic in what 2014 has in store for AFM.

Atomic Force Microscope 

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